UN Women Zimbabwe trains 30 women parliamentarians and leaders of political party wings from ZANU PF, MDC-T and MDC
Zimbabwe: Thirty female parliamentarians and senior leaders from the political party wings are undergoing training at Amber Hotel in Mutare. The four day workshop ending on Friday 4 April 2014 targets equal numbers of women from 3 political parties; ZANU PF, MDC-T and MDC. This is the second workshop in a series of a professionally designed three stage certificated course on Leadership, Conflict Analysis and Management supported by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, (UN Women) in Zimbabwe under its 3 year Gender, Peace and Security Programme (GPS).
UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting the needs for women and girls worldwide. It supports UN Member States as they set global standards for achieving gender equality, and works with governments and civil society to design laws, policies, programmes and services needed to implement these standards. The organisation seeks to enhance women’s equal participation in all aspects of life, focusing on five priority areas: increasing women’s leadership and participation; ending violence against women; engaging women in all aspects of peace and security processes; enhancing women’s economic empowerment; and making gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting.
The UN Women GPS programme was established in 2012, and focuses on the following interventions: Women’s participation at all levels of peace and security policy making; Strengthening capacities of security sector actors to respond to gender insecurities and Supporting mechanisms for peacebuilding at the community level. It responds to the provisions outlined in the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security that provide a comprehensive political framework within which women’s protection and their role in conflict prevention and resolution can be addressed.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security, which was adopted in October 2000 underscores the importance of women’s active participation in politics and leadership. Provisions of UNSCR 1325 have been embraced in several ways by Member States, including the adoption of National Action Plans and a review of legislation to make them gender sensitive. Although Zimbabwe does not yet have a National Action Plan towards implementation of the United Nations Resolution 1325, there have been concerted efforts directed towards strengthening women’s status and positions in society at both the local and national level. For example, the country’s new Constitution has provisions that seek to advance the status of women. Specifically, the Constitution is hailed for advancing affirmative action as a strategy of redressing gender imbalances in education, politics and leadership.
There is a rapidly growing global appreciation of the contribution that women make in leadership, development and peacebuilding. Within the current set up of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), women have been able to access critical positions and play crucial roles in peace and security issues on the continent. As such, the AU Commission has a Gender Policy that enunciates its commitment to ensuring a 50 – 50 representation in the organization and by extension influences its member countries and partners to adopt a gender-sensitive approach to their activities. Similarly, the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) also underscores the importance of promoting gender equality in political participation. At the regional level, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development also provides for a 50-50 parity principle. As a result the last decade has seen the development of a robust African gender architecture that supports women’s participation in political and governance processes.
Admittedly, despite the robust normative architecture enunciated above, in Zimbabwe women’s participation in politics and leadership is still limited numerically and qualitatively. The country has undergone different phases regarding women’s political participation. On the one hand, it has been possible to observe a significant role performed by women in nation building and the setting up of democratic processes; on the other hand, however, recurrent political conflict coupled with exclusionary practices have led to a situation where evidence of women’s active participation has been weakened.
Against this background, this training programme seeks to provide a building block towards the strengthening of conflict management skills base of Zimbabwean women in politics and leadership. The training provides a platform for women politicians to consistently enhance their skills by reflecting on their practice and experience, while seeking to achieve the goal of strengthening women’s participation in leadership and governance by providing a space for reflection, learning and shared experiences. There has not been much training on conflict management and resolution happening at the political leadership levels. As such, this training exposes participants to the basics and nuances of leadership, conflict analysis and management. The training also takes a gendered analysis on the impact of conflict as well as its resolution. Ultimately, training female politicians and government leaders will strengthen their impact on policy and implementation. As political leaders elsewhere, women politicians in Zimbabwe represent both their parties and their gender. In some cases, it has been notably difficult for women to transcend their political identities and positions. This has resulted in closure of spaces for dialogue between women from different political parties. Such a reality makes it necessary to undertake conflict management and resolution training towards facilitating tolerance, cooperation and acceptance in politics and governance.
The training also provides a platform to strengthen collaborative relationships among women leaders with the aim to that facilitate transformative change, shared leadership and effective coalitions. Ultimately, through such training, women leaders in Zimbabwe will have space to cultivate personal growth and collective advancement of women in politics and leadership. In designing this training programme, UN Women has kept cognisance of the outstanding challenges that curtail women’s effective participation in politics, leadership and governance. For example, participation in activities and politics remains a gendered process which requires female candidates to devote a significant amount of energy, resources and time, apart from the reality of dealing with internal party politics and challenges of political harassment. As such, this programme underscores the importance of capacity-building initiatives for women in politics and governance.
Level I of this training course occurred with the same group of women last year from October 9-11 at the Rhodes Nyanga Hotel. The final training - Level III, will take place at a selected Regional Peace-building Centre of Excellency to facilitate exchange learning with women political leaders from other spaces in the Region, in June 2014. The cumulative impact of such training has the potential to transform Zimbabwe from a society with a modest representation of women in politics to one where there is not only significant but effective presence of women in the Legislative Assembly, Senate and Government positions.